Don Foster MP*

Future Airport Plans Must Put Public Safety First

The safety of passengers and people living under flight-paths must come first when deciding the future of UK airports, Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary Don Foster MP warned today.

The Government’s proposals for massive expansion of UK airports, to increase the number of planes and passengers flying into the UK, ignore these fundamental issues, Mr Foster claimed. In addition, the Government has over-estimated the economic benefits of Britain becoming a big transit lounge for the world’s airlines, and its proposals are economically and environmentally unsustainable.

Publishing the Liberal Democrats’ response to ‘The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom’, Mr Foster said:

"Not only does Britain have over-crowded roads, the Government’s plans will create over-crowded skies as well.

"And like our roads, more planes in our skies will increase the chance of accidents, and will mean more danger to both passengers and people living under flight paths.

"The solutions for tackling the crisis posed by increasing demand for air travel lie far beyond simply expanding the capacity of airports. Solutions must be much more wide-ranging.

"In 1993 the Tory government had the opportunity to tackle the problems and failed. Doing nothing is not an option, but the government’s present consultation is badly flawed, as illustrated by the High Court judgement on including Gatwick in the consultation. Issues of sustainability and possible changes in taxation are ignored, and the claimed economic benefits to the UK of the assumed air traffic growth are distorted.

"Once again the government’s environmental credentials are in tatters. Their consultation documents show that they are returning to the failed approach of predict and provide."

Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat Aviation Spokesman said:

"How can any sensible proposals for managing air traffic all but ignore reforms to departure tax, fuel taxation, landing fees or slot allocation? How can they fail to adequately consider the role of rail substitution for domestic flights, changes in aircraft design or important environmental concerns? This is a botched consultation. It will lead to years of uncertainty and argument."


Notes to editors:

The Liberal Democrat document lists seven major defects in the government’s consultation document.

· It is based on the long discredited predict and provide approach rather than one of managing demand.

· Growth figures unjustifiably assume that the current tax "benefits" (such as exemption from aviation fuel duty and VAT on airline tickets) will continue.

· It is incorrectly implied that all future air traffic growth is of economic benefit. The impact on, for example, UK tourism of cheap holiday flights is ignored and there is limited benefit of the UK becoming an international transit lounge. English residents on overseas holidays spend £13.2bn more than is spent on foreign holidays here (English Tourist Board).

· Issues of sustainability are inadequately covered despite the government’s expressed view that "aviation should meet its external costs". There’s inadequate mention of measures to tackle air and noise pollution, to limit night flights, to improve public transport access to airports or to substitute internal air travel with rail travel.

· Inadequate attention is paid to the role of regional airports or to "second" and "third" tier airports.

· The potential for reducing flights by increasing existing seat utilisation and the use of larger aircraft (such as the A380) is largely ignored.

· Other than for the south east, inadequate assessment has been made of the implications of the proposals on air traffic control.

Liberal Democrats believe that solutions for tackling the crisis posed by increasing demand for air travel lie far beyond simply expanding the capacity of airports. Solutions must be much more wide-ranging. Solutions must include;

· Improved surface public transport to airports and rail substitution for domestic flights.

· Reform of departure tax, fuel taxation, landing fees and slot allocation

· Public Service Obligations for "life-line" flights in peripheral areas of the UK.

· Legislation to control night flights, noise emissions, and other environmental impacts.

· Changes to aircraft design.

· Boosting the role of regional and "second" and "third" tier airports.

This article published: 28/11/2023

Published by Bath Liberal Democrats, 31 James St West, Bath, BA1 2BT. Printed and hosted by JPC Infonet, 2 St Georges Works, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8AA. Your Privacy._blank


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